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OPINION: ORDEAL OF ROAD USERS ON ANARA – AMAURO ROAD

Imo State Governor Hope Uzodimma
Imo State Governor Hope Uzodimma
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The insecurity on the busy Anara-Okigwe Expressway in Imo State has often subjected motorists and other road users to a nightmare.

Governor Hope Uzodimma should not hesitate to put pressure on the contractors handling the rehabilitation of the road to expedite action towards its completion.

There have been robbery attacks on this road. Travellers have been robbed of their hard-earned property by armed robbers who take advantage of its bad condition. Riddled with potholes as it is, the road has also become a strategic point for gangs of kidnappers, killer herdsmen and other dangerous criminals who have formed the habit of striking at will in the area.

There have been many cases of abductions, especially in the Okigwe Local Government Area, Onuimo areas and some parts of neighbouring Abia State, allegedly perpetrated, if the accounts given by escaped victims are anything to go by, by killer Fulani herdsmen.

The present state of the Anara-Okigwe Expressway has become a serious concern to the people of Onuimo, Okigwe, Isiala Mbano and neighbouring villages, especially during the rainy season.

Passengers traveling from Owerri to Okigwe, Enugu, Benue and other states that link Okigwe now move through Umuahia, in a rather unnecessary roundabout manner, to get to their destinations.

Recently, my ordeal on that road was a horrible one. I am yet to recover from the shock. I travelled to Okigwe on the July 27, 2022. On my way back to Owerri the following day, I boarded a commercial bus (not at the motor park) but along the Owerri- Okigwe Road.

About 15 passengers were already in the 8-seater Nissan bus before I entered and sat down. They were all well-dressed, men and women.

After about 30 minutes, the vehicle moved on. The driver, a middle-aged man, started moving faster, even as the road was clearly bad and almost unmotorable.

Surprisingly, no passenger supported me when I began to scold the driver. They all kept quiet. After a while, the driver received a phone call. He cut the speed and slowed down.

As we got to the river at Umunna in Onuimo LGA, the bus stopped. The driver tried to start the engine again, but in vain. We heard him say that the vehicle had developed a fault. I became apprehensive. All the other passengers got down from the bus, but, surprisingly, everyone appeared to be unperturbed.

To cut short a long story, it took a whole hour before I was able to board another commercial bus on the same road. Perhaps, I was the only passenger that was travelling to Owerri.

When Governor Uzodimma assumed office in 2020 and announced that his administration’s focus would be on Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction, expectations were high. The people believed him when he said that he would prioritise road construction and rehabilitation in the state.

Before then the people of Imo had prayed for a government that would fix the bad roads as quickly as possible. The poor condition of that expressway and many others indirectly affected the life of every Imolite living within or outside the state.

Also, it would amount to a misjudgement for anybody to blame the condition of the road on anyone, whether for political reasons or other gains. What matters now is ensuring that it is fixed in order to safeguard the lives and property of road users.

It is also becoming most worrisome that security operatives have deserted the road and hoodlums appear to have taken over. Why have the police, civil defence and military, as well as the local vigilante abandoned the road?

The challenge posed by insecurity has exposed the abandoned Okigwe Grammar School compound, which is now overgrown with weeds.

It would be recalled that the Imo State Government (former administration) rebuilt the compound and upgraded the school to School of Engineering, an extension of the Imo State University, Owerri.

If that institution had been on session, that would have forced the government to rehabilitate the road. Among all the roads in Imo, the Anara-Okigwe Expressway is the busiest and most plied, particularly by articulated vehicles that conveying stones and other related building materials to Owerri and other parts of the state. It therefore needs to be urgently rehabilitated.

The leadership of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Okigwe chapter, should keep an eye on the activities of its members and fish out the bad eggs among them who have been contributing to the pain suffered by road users.

Also, the leaders of the Hausa/Fulani Community in the state should try as much as possible to monitor the activities of their people and call errant herdsmen to order.

By Sampson Uhuegbu